Life Jackets For Your Smartphone

By Tux Turkel
Published: June/July 2014

Just because you take it boating doesn't mean your smartphone is up for a plunge. Be prepared for when the unexpected happens.

Four Cases Worth Checking Out

Photo of otterbox waterproof smartphone case

OtterBox Preserver

The Preserver features a two-piece padded, polycarbonate shell that snaps together. Submersible to 6 feet, 6 inches depth and drop-tested from the same height. Dust and debris proof to industry standards. Camera lens and flash openings; hinged port for charger. Comes with wrist lanyard. For iPhone 5 and 5S, and Galaxy S4. Cost: $89 |

Photo of E-Merse Dry Audio

Seattle Sports E-Merse

With an updated design this year, E-Merse is a floating polyurethane pouch that uses slide-lock closures to seal out water up to 10 feet deep. The new models have a lower-profile slide bar, and the Dry Audio version, which features a waterproof headphone jack, has been reoriented to accommodate larger smartphones, such as the Galaxy S4. Comes with a breakaway lanyard. Cost: $15-$20 |

Snow Lizard SLXtreme

Photo of Snow Lizard SLXtreme

The SLXtreme hits a lot of bases. It meets the industry waterproof, shockproof, and dustproof standards, with a polycarbonate case and rubberized grips. It also integrates a 2,000-milliamp battery that claims to double the battery life of an iPhone, with up to seven hours of talk time. The battery can receive a trickle charge for a small solar panel in the back. Cost: $130

Photo of LifeProof LifeJacket

LifeProof LifeJacket

Designed to complement the LifeProof frë smartphone case ($80), the LifeJacket is a high-visibility orange surround made of soft, buoyant foam. Allows access to side keys and controls. Corners have a mounting eyelet for lanyard and wrist strap. Has camera lens and flash opening on the back. Designed for iPhone 5/5S/5C. Cost: $40 |



Devices always seem to be running out of juice, just when we're far away from a power outlet. Some case makers have responded by integrating tiny batteries inside their products. At least one case uses the sun's rays to help charge the battery and costs roughly $130.

This is a niche category but may evolve with improved battery technology and consumer demand. For now, it's about aligning expectation with reality. In-phone chargers prolong battery life and solar cells can revive a dead device. But don't expect the rapid recovery time you get from a wall outlet or 12-volt plug-in.

Speaking of expectations, it's fair to say that all these cases involve some degree of compromise. Some may muffle your speaker or ringtone. Others may impair your ability to press all the function keys or perform swipes, especially at the edges of the screen, where the case may intrude. It's possible that third-party cables won't fit through the charging port. Maybe these are things you can live with for your peace of mind on the water. At the same time, you'll want the ability to test a case and return it, if it's not suitable.End of story marker

Tux Turkel has been exploring the Maine coast in small boats for 20-plus years.

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